Before Saturday, Patrice Evra had not scored for three and a half years, but he seems to remember that strike against Roma in 2008, and the previous one against Everton, better than something that happened four weeks ago. He was one of the United players who expressed his displeasure when Wayne Rooney questioned the quality of his team-mates during his dispute with Manchester United. The France defender claimed: "If one player in the team doesn't trust the others he should not play in the team." But that now appears to have been conveniently forgotten.
A fit and fully committed Rooney offers United their best chance of recovering their form and winning trophies, so naturally Evra welcomed his return from injury as a second-half substitute against Wigan Athletic. "With Wayne we don't talk about the past, we just think about the future," Evra said after the match. "And the future is where he will once again become one of the best players in the world. We will try to help him become one of the best again. What I said at the time was that the most important thing was the team, not Patrice Evra or Wayne Rooney. I never said the players were against him. When someone says they don't trust in the future of Manchester United it caused us pain, but it is behind us now. What we have to do now is help him and hope he scores many goals for us again."
Until Evra's header in first-half injury time there was little sign of a goal at Old Trafford on Saturday and United continued to labour until Wigan Athletic had two players sent off.
"We must make sure against Blackburn [who visit Old Trafford on Saturday] we play from the first minute, not at the end of the game," Evra said. "When we play at home we need to be more aggressive and score more goals to bring back the Manchester United way, the way we always play."
Antonin Alcaraz and Hugo Rodallega, the players dismissed, will be suspended for next week's visit to West Ham, where defeat would put Wigan, now in the bottom three on goal difference, firmly in the relegation frame. But Roberto Martinez, the manager, will not compromise his belief in the passing football that enabled Wigan to look the better side for the first hour at Old Trafford.
"The only way we are going to progress is by playing this way," he said. "Believe me, we need to get results in the short term, but in a manner in which will allow the football club to grow and the players to develop. We showed today in the first 40 minutes how far we have come compared to the performance that we put in here last season. Last season we lost here 5-0 and we never competed. Today we had to cope with a very difficult challenge, the two sendings-off, and up to the first goal, I thought it was a very competitive game."
Scorers: Manchester Utd Evra 45, Hernandez 77.
Substitutes: Man Utd Scholes (Park, 56), Hernandez (Carrick, 64), Rooney (Macheda, 56). Unused Kuszczak (gk), O'Shea, Evans, Giggs. Wigan McArthur (Stam, 80), Di Santo (N'Zogbia, 80), Moses (Gomez, 58). Unused Pollitt (gk), Watson, Boselli, McManaman.
Booked: Wigan Alcaraz, Diame.
Sent off: Wigan Alcaraz (59), Rodallega (61).
Man of the match Evra. Match rating 3/10.
Possession Man Utd 65% Wigan 35%.
Shots on target Man Utd 12 Wigan 4.
Referee M Atkinson (Yorkshire). Att 74,181.Reuse content